Some things are born from the embers of disaster. This recipe is one of them. If you read food blogs, you would think that nothing ever goes wrong and that all dishes arrive from the oven aromatic and done to a turn, just waiting to be single-lit photographed with attractive rustic props. Not so my membrillo this year. No matter how long I cooked it for in a low oven, it retained the consistency of sloppy jam. It’s still delicious but there will be no cute little stiff diamonds of it on my cheese this year; more of a smear. The upside is that it’s spreadable so perfect to lather over some pastry.
These little pastries look deceptively tricky (as well as like elephant’s ears, their other name) but they’re actually very easy and you can vary what you make them with according to what you have to hand: different cheeses, pesto instead of membrillo, throw in some chopped olives or herbs. You can also freeze a batch of them, before baking, and chuck them in the oven if someone unexpectedly turns up bearing a bottle of something festive. Which reminds me – have yourselves a very Merry Christmas.
250g puff pastry
25g walnuts, finely crushed in a mortar and pestle
40g Wensleydale cheese, crumbled or grated
2 tbsp. soft quince paste, or similar
1 egg beaten
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to form a rectangle of roughly 30cm by 20cm. Spread the paste over the surface then sprinkle with the cheese and crushed walnuts.
One side at a time, roll the longer sides in towards the middle until they meet. Seal with a little of the brushed egg.
Wrap the roll in cling-film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200c / 180c fan-assisted / Gas Mark 6. Remove the roll when adequately chilled and cut into 1cm slices, along its length. Place the slices on a lined baking tray.
Cook for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden.